If an animal attacks someone, the owner of that animal may be liable for the resulting injuries. This falls under personal injury law. The majority of animal attack claims involve dog bites, but claims may be made for any attack by any animal whether wild or domesticated. Depending on which state you live in, there may be specific statutes that govern animal attacks. A personal injury attorney familiar with animal attack cases can help you determine if you have a case and how to best proceed.
Proving an Animal Attack Case
Animal attack cases can be more complicated than they first appear. These cases can either be governed by the theory of negligence or the theory of strict liability depending on the state. If the case is governed by the theory of negligence, the plaintiff must show that the owner of the animal acted carelessly or recklessly in allowing the attack. For example, if a dog was not properly secured behind a fence, escaped and bit someone, the owner would be clearly negligent. If the case is governed by strict liability, the plaintiff does not have to prove negligence.
One Bite Laws
In some cases, the knowledge of the owner is also considered. If the animal has never attacked anyone before, the owner may be shielded from liability on the first offense. This is known as the “one bite rule.” About half the states in the U.S. have this rule. Once an animal has attacked a human, however, the owner is no longer shielded from liability.
Animal Attack Exceptions
There are two circumstances in which an owner may not be liable for an animal attack. These include:
- Provocation – If the attack can be shown to have been caused by intentional provocation by the plaintiff, the victim’s claim may be limited or barred.
- Trespassing – If an attack occurs on the animal owner’s property, the owner is only liable for injuries to those who are legally permitted onto the property. This is treated as a premises liability case.